ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday witnessed a noisy protest by opposition members and legislators from tribal areas against the government’s move to delay the much-awaited Fata reforms.
Explore: Fata reform — plans & pitfalls
The chaos erupted when Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai while defending the government’s action opposed the planned merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He invited the wrath of the members when he said that no one in the house had knowledge about Fata, while responding to the speeches of Opposition Leader and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) member Syed Khurshid Shah and Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).
The two had criticised the government for putting on hold a key legislation on Fata reforms reportedly after a telephone call from Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was in China on an official visit.
Mr Shah and Mr Qureshi took the floor again on “points of personal explanation” and lashed out at the PkMAP chief for opposing the merger of Fata with KP despite knowing that there was almost a consensus among the parliamentary parties and the Fata lawmakers on it.
On several occasions, Speaker Ayaz Sadiq lost temper and warned the members against disciplinary action for creating disturbance in the house.
“Mr Afridi, I will throw you out. Don’t spoil the atmosphere,” the speaker told Fata MNA Shah Gee Gul Afridi when he kept on speaking without the mike after he was refused the floor.
The opposition members asked the speaker to give the floor to Mr Afridi but he refused to do so.
It all started when at the outset of the session Mr Shah lambasted the government for delaying Fata reforms “merely on one telephone call”.
Taking the floor, Mr Achakzai said there was no mention of Fata in the Independence Act of 1947 and that the British and the Afghan governments had agreements on the region. “If you will touch it, it can create an international issue,” he warned.
Mr Shah objected to Mr Achakzai’s viewpoint and said Fata was a part of Pakistan and would remain so. Mr Qureshi said the PkMAP chief had always talked about the parliament’s sovereignty, but today he was not ready to accept the parliament’s will.
Federal Minister for States and Frontier Regions retd Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch rejected the allegations that the government was backtracking from its commitments on Fata reforms and delaying the process to appease its allies.
The house witnessed rumpus again when Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif criticised the PTI lawmakers for staging a demonstration in Peshawar on Wednesday against power cuts.
“Thieves are protesting against loadshedding,” Mr Asif said without naming PTI MNA Aaisha Gulali who had led the protest. He said 89 per cent electricity was being stolen in the area where the people were protesting.
Ms Gulalai condemned the minister’s remarks and claimed that the areas where the recovery rate was 98 per cent were also facing 12 to 14 hours of power cuts.
The PTI members then started raising slogans against the prime minister and staged a walkout. Other opposition members followed the suit after the minister refused to withdraw his words on the demand of Khurshid Shah.
The PTI’s Sajid Nawaz returned to the house and pointed out lack of quorum, forcing Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi to prorogue the session.
The assembly is now scheduled to meet on May 26 for presentation of the federal budget. It means that the Fata reforms legislation has now been put on hold since the parliament cannot do any other business during the budget session.
Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2017